Friday, January 11, 2013

Battle Beneath The Earth

The last film by veteran British-based director Montgomery Tully, who was in his sixties when he directed this absurd poke of pulp science fiction. It played MGM double bills with films like DAY OF THE EVIL GUN and THE YOUNG RUNAWAYS when rolled out around the U.S. in 1968. Right from the first scene, with a Las Vegas patrol cop speaking with an English accent and faulty rear projection featuring backwards lettering on the signs, you know BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH is going to be laughable fun.

Naval Commander Jonathan Shaw (Kerwin Mathews, previously the star of THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) investigates when his good friend Arnold Kramer (Peter Arne) is institutionalized after being found crawling the streets of Las Vegas and ranting about people moving about underground like ants. Shaw follows his nose to an Oregon mine, where he discovers fresh, smooth tunnels stretching hundreds of miles. Turns out Communist Chinese led by fanatical warlord Chan Lu (a hilariously miscast Martin Benson), who keeps a pet falcon in his underground lair, dug the tunnels all the way from China and are using them to transport atomic bombs intended for America’s destruction.

Yep, it’s a basic Nick Carter plot, combining science fiction and Cold War espionage, presented by Tully (THE TERRORNAUTS) and writer Charles Vetter (FIRST MAN INTO SPACE) in colorful fashion with lots of imaginative if barely plausible ideas. BATTLE doesn’t take itself too seriously (the Vegas-based mental hospital has slot machines for the patients) and suggests a Bond influence. Its low budget is obvious from the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. whip pans and Ken Jones’ aggressively jazzy score, but the bright colors and rat-a-tat action sequences provide giddy fun. Viviane Ventura (CARRY ON JACK) joins the story in Act Three as a sexy geologist who doesn’t know what lava is.

1 comment:

Grant said...

I finally saw it for the first time this year, after reading so much about it on the site TELEPORT CITY, and it's as wild and far-fetched as I was told.